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Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Wholistic with a "W"?

I got an email from one of my colleagues in the UK the other day. In it, she used the word "Wholistic", spelt with a "W".

I don't think the word was wrong, per se, but I'd never seen it spelt that way, so I asked Google to define it. Apparently, it's a variant spelling of the word "holistic":



Which didn't surprise me; I thought it was a UK thing.

But I did some further research, and I ran across this article from Merriam-Webster. It turns out that the first usage of the word was without the "W" (which isn't the surprising bit), and that it was first used by a South African!

The article states:
Holistic was coined by South African soldier and statesman Jan Christian Smuts in the 1920s as a philosophical term. Smuts, who—aside from war and politics—was a student of natural science, used the term to describe his complex philosophy regarding the organization of nature. Viewing the universe in terms of "wholes"—that is, organisms and systems instead of molecules and atoms—he derived holism from the Greek word holos, meaning "whole." In his 1926 book Holism and Evolution, he defines holism as "[the] tendency in nature to form wholes that are greater than the sum of the parts through creative evolution."
The "W" was tacked on shortly afterwards, but the original spelling continues to be the most common.

I love stories like this. Finding a "South Africanism" that's become commonplace all over the world fills me with patrotic pride.

Did you know this about the word "Holistic"? And can you think of any other South African words which non-South Africans from elsewhere in the world use all the time?


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